Office Workout Moves You Can Do Right at Your Desk

If you have trouble staying fit at work, these office exercises are a great way to keep your body moving right at your desk. The moves here involve stretching and strengthening your body, all within the comfort of your office chair. This workout doesn't take the place of traditional strength training, but it offers you a way to keep your body moving if you can't get away from your desk.


See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions. Make sure the chair you use is stable. If you have wheels, push it against a wall to make sure it won't roll away.

Equipment Needed

You will need a chair and a full water bottle or dumbbells.


Stretches for Your Wrists and Arms

Seated spinal twist

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Wrist Stretch: Extend an arm in front, palm up and grab the fingers with your other hand. Gently pull the fingers towards you to stretch the forearm, holding for 20–30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Wrist and Forearm: Press hands together in front of chest, elbows bent and parallel to the floor. Gently bend wrists to the right and left for 10 reps.

Lower Back Stretch (pictured): Sit tall and place the left arm behind left hip. Gently twist to the left, using the right hand to deepen the stretch, holding for 20–30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.


Lower Body Exercises

Hip Flexion: Sit tall with your abs in and lift the left foot off the floor a few inches, knee bent. Hold for 2 seconds, lower and repeat for 16 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Leg Extension: Sit tall with your abs in and extend the left leg until it's level with hip, squeezing the quadriceps. Hold for 2 seconds, lower and repeat for 16 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Inner Thigh: Place towel, firm water bottle or an empty coffee cup between the knees as you sit up tall with the abs in. Squeeze the bottle or cup, release halfway and squeeze again, completing 16 reps of slow pulses.


Chair Exercises

Pulsing Chair Squats

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Chair Squat (pictured): While sitting, lift up until your hips are just hovering over the chair, arms out for balance. Hold for 2–3 seconds, stand all the way up and repeat for 16 reps.

Dips: Make sure the chair is stable and place hands on the chair next to your hips. Move hips in front of the chair and bend the elbows, lowering the body until the elbows are at 90-degree angles. Push back up and repeat for 16 reps.

One-Leg Squat: Make sure the chair is stable and take one foot slightly in front of the other. Use the hands for leverage as you push up into a one-legged squat, hovering just over the chair and keeping the other leg on the floor for balance. Lower and repeat, only coming a few inches off the chair for 12 reps. Repeat on the other side.


Upper Body Exercises

Front Raise to Triceps Press: Sit tall with your abs in and hold a full water bottle in the left hand. Lift the bottle up to shoulder level, pause, and then continue lifting all the way up over your head. When your arm is next to the ear, bend the elbow, taking the water bottle behind you and contracting the triceps. Straighten the arm and lower down, repeating for 12 reps on each arm.​

Biceps Curl: Hold a water bottle in your right hand and, with abs in and spine straight, curl bottle towards shoulder for 16 reps. Repeat the other side.


Ab Exercises

Side Bends: Hold a water bottle with both hands and stretch it up over the head, arms straight. Gently bend towards the left as far as you can, contracting the abs. Come back to center and repeat to the right. Complete 10 reps (bending to the right and left is one rep).

Ab Twists: Hold the water bottle at chest level and, keeping the knees and hips forward, gently twist to the left as far as you comfortably can, feeling the abs contract. Twist back to center and move to the left for a total of 10 reps. Don't force it or you may end up with a back injury.


Moving More at Work

Businessman working in the office
vgajic / Getty Images

Beyond working out at your desk, there are a few tricks for staying active at work. Taking the stairs when you can, parking further away from the door, and walking around the office when you can are good places to start. Beyond that, there are a few other options to keep you moving:

  • If it's allowed, sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This will strengthen your abs and back and you'll work on your posture without even trying.
  • Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind you to stand up, stretch, and move around. Even if you just swing your arms or take a deep breath, you'll feel more alert.
  • Use the restroom on another floor and take the stairs.
  • Use a pedometer or activity monitor and keep track of how many steps you take. Aim for 6,000 to 10,000 steps a day.
  • Leave something important in your car (your lunch, your briefcase, etc.) so you have to run out to get it (and take the stairs).
  • Deliver documents or messages to co-workers in person rather than by email or text.
  • Walk around the parking lot or local mall on your lunch hour.
  • Get a headset for your phone so you can move around while you talk.
  • Get a standing desk that allows you to change your position throughout the workday. You can start the day sitting until you feel stiff or ready to move, then take a short walk and come back set your desk in a standing position. Work standing for as long as you'd like, then switch back to sitting. 

Most important, remember that any movement is better than none, so don't feel like you have to do sprints all day long. Adding short bouts of exercise throughout the day will help you burn more calories and reduce stress.


Making Your Office Fitness Friendly

Men walking in modern office.
10'000 Hours / Getty Images

Your boss may not have considered how much more productive his or her employees would be with a little exercise. If you can, encourage your boss to:

  • Work with local gyms to provide membership discounts for employees.
  • Work with local personal trainers to provide monthly seminars or free body-fat testing for employees. Some trainers will even do this for free.
  • Set up daily or weekly walks during lunch or after work.
  • Give you extra breaks during the day to take quick walks.
  • Be active. If the boss exercises, employees will take their own health more seriously.

Even if your boss could care less about exercise, you can do a lot to get others involved in working out. Plan lunches where co-workers get together and talk about ways to exercise at work. Get a group together and join a local gym (and see if they'll give you a group discount). Hire a personal trainer to come and work with you and your co-workers during lunch. Many trainers also offer group discounts. There are a number of ways to encourage fitness in the workplace, so be creative.

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